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GOP Blocks One-Year Unemployment Extension, Wants Spending-Cut Offsets

November 30, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

On Tuesday afternoon, Democrats called on the Senate to pass the Unemployment Insurance Stabilization Act under the expedited unanimous consent procedure. As expected, Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA], acting on behalf of all Republicans, objected and will force a full-fledged debate on the issue that will likely last several weeks and be rolled together with unrelated tax issues. Federal unemployment benefits expire today for millions of long-term unemployed workers.

The bill Democrats tried to pass today would extend federal unemployment benefits until January 3, 2012. Because its costs (approx. $54 billion) are not offset, there was never much of a chance that the Republicans would allow the bill to go through so easily. Republicans have repeatedly said they want to pay for unemployment benefits with corresponding spending cuts (something that’s never been done) before they’ll vote for it, and because the Democrats don’t have a filibuster-proof majority they have a god deal of leverage for enforcing their position.

Immediately after objecting to unanimous consent, Sen. Brown turned the table and called for unanimous-consent passage of a one-year unemployment extension that is fully paid for by rescinding unspent non-security appropriations. Democrats objected.

The most likely scenario at this point is that the unemployment extension will be added to a bill to extend the expiring Bush tax cuts. Obama said today that unemployment benefits were mentioned in a bipartisan meeting on the tax cuts. Sen. Max Baucus [D, MT], who proposed the one-year extension bill that was rejected today, will lead the Democrats in the tax cut negotiations.

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